We’re a full weekend into the baseball season, and NPI still hasn’t previewed the most important league! Don’t fret, though, John S is here to break it all down for you, and to make sure you don’t get fooled by Baltimore’s 3-0 start.
1. Oakland Athletics
2. Texas Rangers
3. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
4. Seattle Mariners
So you’re on the A’s bandwagon? Yeah, and I’m not even going to pretend like I got on it particularly early. I was really just looking for someone to pick over the Rangers.
Why do you feel the need to mess with Texas? Well, I was early on the Rangers bandwagon, picking them to win the West at the beginning of 2010, so it’s not like I’m anti-Texas. This year, though, the defending AL champs are both overrated and underrated. They are underrated because people have inevitably focused on the loss of Cliff Lee this off-season; but while losing Lee is obviously big, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that the Rangers were in first before trading for Lee last season, and that they likely would have won the division even without his acquisition (Lee was actually pretty mediocre for Texas in the regular season). Continue reading
Just put him on...
Alas, the Yankees have lost the ALCS. There are many things you can blame for this sad reality, most notably the fact that the Rangers pitched and hit better than the Yankees throughout the series. But one thing that certainly didn’t help matters was the absurd number of intentional walks issued at the behest of Joe Girardi.
Two of the series’ key turning points were centered on intentional walks. First, in Game 4, with A.J. Burnett pitching as well as anyone could have expected and the Yankees leading 3-2, Vlad Guerrero led off the sixth with a single. Nelson Cruz replaced him at first on a fielder’s choice, and then, in a smart baserunning play, went to second on a deep fly ball to center. This move was so smart because it left Girardi with something that, apparently, managers do not know what to do with: a base open.
You hear things like this all the time in baseball: “Well, you have a base open here, so you can pitch around him,” or “You may as well walk him with a base open.” Here is a quick note for managers: YOU WANT YOUR BASES TO BE OPEN. That is a good thing. It means you have fewer runners on base and, thus, fewer runners at risk of scoring. And yet having a runner a second base and not first for some reason makes managers think about this differently, as if there were no substantive difference between having two runners on and having only one.
Because I’m sure that, had Cruz not taken second, Girardi would not have done what he did,* which is intentionally walk David Murphy.** Continue reading
New York Yankees (95-67) at Texas Rangers (90-72)
Fresh off the franchise’s first playoff series win, the Rangers take on the Yankees, who once again swept the Twins in the first round. Oddly, the Yankees’ sweep of the Twins may have been a closer—or at least more exciting—series than the Rangers-Rays five-gamer. The Yankees came from behind in each of the first two games (with Mariano Rivera of course saving both) before finishing the Twins off at home. The Rangers and Rays, meanwhile, played only one close game in five—a Game 3 win for the Rays. Two great starts from Cliff Lee and another from C.J. Wilson (combined for 2 ER in 22.1 IP) were enough to put the Rangers in their first ever ALCS. Continue reading
In Part I, John S and Tim exhaustively and inconclusively dissected the Yankees and Phillies’ respective lineups. In the much-anticipated (and admittedly more concise) Part II, it’s time for the pitching staff and predictions–detailed predictions.
LEE V. SABATHIA
TIM: Everyone knows Mets fans are devastated about this series. But what about Indians fans having to watch this?
And do you expect CC to ever give up TWO runs in a playoff game?
JOHN: It’s probably especially rough for Indians fans given the trajectory of each of their careers. Both Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia were always guys who had tons of potential who couldn’t stay consistent. Then each of them put it together for a Cy Young year….and was promptly traded to a playoff team.
My confidence in CC at this point is reaching a point I’ve never reached with a starter. This is odd, given that as late as July I was wondering if he was worth the money. I’m kind of hoping for a rainout betwen Games 3 and 4, so Sabathia can pitch 3 times this series (although I guess they’d just ditch the off-day if that happened). I cannot conceive of losing a game he starts in the playoffs, despite his shaky history against Philly in the postseason. I’m adamantly for going with a 3-man rotation, something I’d always thought was a bad idea when other teams considered it.
Phillies fans, however, probably have similar confidence in Cliff Lee. I’m a little worried about Lee, despite his bad numbers vs. NYY in his career. Those are mostly from pre-2008, so it was really a different pitcher. But I know you think he’s a pretty weak ace, right?
TIM: I never said he was a “weak” ace. I did need to see some validation this year from him, and I have. The thing about Cliff Lee is that nothing he does looks very impressive. He doesn’t blow anything by anyone, he doesn’t make hitters look silly very often, and his stuff doesn’t jump off the TV screen. He’s just a very good pitcher…that I think is going to have one bad start in this series. I think he and Sabathia each have one good and one bad start, but Sabathia will be better in both (assuming they match up twice). Continue reading
Minnesota Twins (87-76) at
New York Yankees (103-59)
(RIDICULOUSLY BIASED) OVERVIEW
The Yankees are the best team in the AL, but they’re taking on the Twins, who just completed one of the most incredible comebacks to win a division (down three with four to play). Fortunately for them, that makes them hot. Unfortunately for them, that makes them spent. I can definitely foresee an’03 Yankees World Series type situation, where the Twins feel as if they’ve already won their crown just by getting this far. Plus, the division race has left their rotation a little out of whack, forcing them to use rookie pitcher Brian Duensing in Game 1.
As I insisted repeatedly earlier this week, the Yankees have the best lineup in baseball. Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez are the best three-four hitters in the league, but the lineup is also deep with seven guys who have over 20 home runs. A lot of that, of course, is due to the new Yankee Stadium, but a lot of it is also great production from guys like Nick Swisher, Hideki Matsui and Robinson Cano.
The Twins, on the other hand, have Joe Mauer, the best hitter in the league in 2009, but not much beyond that. Justin Morneau is hurt. Their second best hitter now is Jason Kubel who, though he did have an impressive season in ’09, is not going to strike fear into a lot of pitchers’ hearts. And the fact the Nick Punto, Matt Tolbert and Jose Morales are all getting significant numbers of at-bats is not all that intimidating. Continue reading